A RPi Pico W would make an excellent base for an age care personal alarm pendant.

There is a term, SKIs, standing for spending kid’s inheritance which applies to parents spending big on overseas trips etc. when they are at or close to retirement. Another way that the inheritance gets siphoned off is with retirement homes where the family home is sold to purchase an aged-care unit and to provide a bond. We are talking here about residents who are living in such homes in what is called independent living; not the high- care cases. Generally, when you enter a retirement home in independent mode you purchase the accommodation and deposit a significant bond. Upon termination of the occupancy, you get your deposit refunded (without any interest) and the unit is refurbished at your cost and resold. A service fee depending upon the length of occupancy can significantly decrease the return on the sale. Also, if the occupant/s after initially purchasing the unit do not have enough for the deposit, compounding interest is actually subtracted from the deposit before return. The business model is focused upon absorbing the wealth of older generations.

Whilst there is much to be gained socially from being in a retirement home later in life in the independent livening mode, and for having some on call level of medical aid, the question is how might it be possible to support an individual or a couple to stay longer in their family home or a down sized property using technology? Whilst this is not posed primarily for economic reasons, it is important from a quality of life perspective. People may wish to keep their independence as long as they can. A Smart Home focused upon supporting older people could be what is required here.

A recent Australian Government report: Recommendations 117 and 118 of the Royal Commission proposed a new funding model to support in-home aged care and support services through a mix of grants and activity-based funding and either an individualised budget or case-mix classification approach. The Department proposes a mixed funding model that includes a combination of each of these elements, including: A separately funded scheme for goods, equipment, assistive technology and home modifications that includes both procurements …

Update: The 2023 Australian Budget has reduced the number of Aged Care supported places in favour of in-house age support given the actual shift in that direction of Aged Care in Australia. “Older Australians are increasingly opting to receive care at home rather than in residential aged care, a shift that the federal government projects will save billions of dollars.” Ref

In brief, it probably is more cost effective to support older people at home than in aged care if they are not infirmed.

The RPi Pico W would make an excellent choice for developing a wearable device for monitoring a person with issues desiring independent solo livening that is relatively small and light weight. It has Wi-Fi so it doesn’t need to be physically connected to a base. As per previous posts here, it can send telemetry and get updates from an Azure IoT Hub. A remote second person can monitor this telemetry, respond to alarms and make setting adjustments. It can be simply interfaced to a world of sensors and actuators.

Body Orientation

A sensor such as the MPU6050 with its accelerometer and gyroscope could be used to detect such things as:

  • Orientation, sleeping, sitting etc
  • Falls and rolls.
  • Walking and running .
  • Sedentary periods

AI could be used to discern some of these entities.

Body Sensors

Pulse rate, skin temperature and other bodily functions could be monitored through a smart watch or specific wearable body sensors. Ideally this data would be harvested directly by the envisaged device, or may need to monitored from the watch’s vendor.

Proximity Sensors

There are specific proximity sensors that could be used, for example, to determine the individual’s location within tehthe house.. Importantly they could also be a gate keeper sensing exit from the house. Reed switches on the front door could log and possibly raise an alarm when the front door is open.


The ambient temperature, pressure and humidity can be logged as can Carbon Dioxide/Monoxide and other gases using sensors. A smoke alarm could also be logged. Sound level might also be useful.


When outside, GPS could be used to track the location of the individual.


An intelligent Webster Pack could indicate though alarms or similar when medication is required, and open the lid to the pack when tablets/capsules are required to be taken. Sensors within could indicate if the tablet has been removed. A video in the same location could film this dispensing and maybe even use AI to determine if the medication was actually taken.


Alarms could be generated either by the device or in the cloud when a certain requirement is not met or an errant situation arises. This could fire off audible, visual or haptic alarms. The cloud could also send notifications to nominated persons. Like classic Personal Alarm Pendants, a switch on the device would raise an alarm.


Using a RPi Pico W with the Azure SDK for C Arduino implemented as per previous discussions, the MPU6050 could be used to generate basic motion and rotation data which can then be interpreted locally or in the cloud. A potentiometer could be used to simulate heart rate in the absence of a more elaborate source of body function data. Some RFID sensors, light beams and ultrasonic sensors could be used to simulate room entry/exit. There are a variety of ambient sensors (some previously covered here) and gas sensors that are easily integrated into an Arduino system.


The RPi Pico W will afford in house communication between the wearable and immovable devices and to the cloud using Wi-Fi. Out of the house cellular communication could be used either as a hardware extension to the device, or through a phone or similar. This latter option would be easier for an individual that needs a walker. Another option would be to use LoRaWAN that has a range of a few kilometers and so could be sending back to home for on forwarding

Alternative Configuration

An alternative arrangement would be to have some sensors on the device moving with the person wearing it, and others communicating directly or indirectly though the cloud in a fixed immovable device. In house environment, gas detection and smoke alarm would be candidates for that. This would simplify the wearable device but would allow for extensions to complexity of the immovable device with impacting the wearable device. The division would be between those sensors that would need to travel with the user when outside versus those that are only detecting in house conditions and states.


Privacy would be paramount with this. It is important that only nominated entities or persons could access this data/settings or be sent alarms.


Azure IoT Central could be used to provide graphical presentation of data with some cloud based interpretation.

Now for an implementation!

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